The internet has been MIA for a while, but it’s back now so I’m posting.
We’ve found a place here and have become very comfortable with the surroundings and the people. The sisters are great and are actually really funny. I told one of them that she has to come visit the US, and she said she can’t, they don’t have any convents overseas. I told her that there is a father, mother, sisters and brothers and my house so she could stay there! (hehehehe) I thought I was clever at least… But they are really awesome and I’m enjoying their company. I had a conversation with one of the sisters about the coming of the messiah and what it means. It was interesting to hear from someone who believes so avidly in the second coming and who is truly passionate about what they believe. I’ve had that expereince with people back home, but this was my first time hearing it from this particular perspective and it allowed me to draw some comparisons between my culture at home and what I’m experiencing here.
There are many religious sites around the area. Last week we visited a Jain Temple and the surrounding area. The monks rid themselves of worldly possession (including clothing) and spend a lot of the time in prayer. Unfortunately we didn’t see any naked monks, but there were beautiful decorations and and really spectacular architecture. We visited a Jain museum, but the English translations were very hard to follow. On Saturday we went to Buddhagaya (not at all how you actually spell it), which is the place where Buddha was enlightened. It was a stunning temple and it was really incredible to see. It’s the first touristy site we’ve been to since arrival and we were all really excited to see other white people; one of them was even wearing shorts. I was jealous. Anyway, the temple was incredible and really interesting to see. The architecture is really astounding and the historical and religious connections were intriguing. After that we went to a Buddhist temple on top of a small mountain. We took chairlifts to get to the top and it was stunning. It was a sunny and clear day and the temple was white marble. It looked so picturesque against the sky.
Today I observed two caesareans and got to help out a little… nothing too helpful, just moving the patient to where she needs to go and showing the mothers the babies, once they’re out. They do spinal anesthesia, so the mothers are awake, but out of it and can’t feel their lower bodies. The second operation was twins, boys, who were both so cute and fit perfectly into your arms. Newborns look a little like aliens and sometimes I’m reminded of MIB or some sort of cheesy aliens attacking movie… women lying on the table and all the sudden something comes ripping from her stomach… clearly it’s been a long time since I’ve watched TV. The nursing hostel has one channel and I watched a soap opera the other night. Didn’t get too much out of it, as it was in Hindi, but the general idea was that this girl went to a co-ed college and her dad found out about her boyfriend and he got mad and arranged a marriage for her to a different guy and the boyfriend was really upset and (really fake) crying and her friends were all upset and there was lots of yelling. Yep.
Work at the school is going well. It’s a Hindi-medium school so many of the children cannot have conversations, but learn really fast. They all read English pretty well, but don’t understand what they’re saying. Sometimes we teach out of their text books and other times we practice conversational English with them. We we’re with the younger kids, we normally do some sort of vocab words with pictures. Last time I was there we learned about weather and taught them how to say “It is cloudy/sunny/rainy etc. We also taught them the peace sign and they love showing it. However they yell “two peace” seeing as they are holding up two fingers and it’s too adorable for me to correct.
Mango season is over, but guava season just started :).
The internet has been MIA for a while, but it’s back now so I’m posting.
Yesterday Laura and I accompanied some of the sisters to a small village where they go once a month to give vaccines to the young children (measles, polio etc…). The villagers pay less than 10 rupees for the vaccines for their children. There were many babies all very cute and of course all crying as soon as they get their shots, but they calmed down pretty fast. I had my camera with me and many of the villagers were asking for pictures, which I took and then showed to them. I really wish I had a Polaroid camera so I could give them the pictures after taking them. Many mothers wanted to get photographed with their children. This also gave me an interesting peek at parenting. Young children are very tough and are mostly content to play on their own. There was this one little boy, maybe two years old who was just lying on the ground and crying- as if he were throwing a temper tantrum. No one seemed to take notice and eventually he stopped. It was just surprising to see this little naked boy rolling in the dirt with many people around. When I was taking photos, a few kids tried to get into every one and their parents just hit them to get them to stop- not too hard. It’s a very “no bullshit” type of parenting.
Today, some of the sisters are conducting interviews for nursing students. They have 40 applicants and 20 spots. Most of the applicants are catholic, between the ages of 17-25 and if accepted will serve in some manner for 4 years, in which they are asked not to get married. Sister Jesse explained that because of the cast system, it is acceptable for only certain Hindu women to go into nursing. However there are so few because many of them get married very young- 13-15. If they wait until they are 19-20, they are too old to get married and no one will want them. As a result, then do not pursue this profession.
Yesterday afternoon Namratha, Yong Jung, and I sat in on a hernia operation, which was interesting for the variety since it was the first non c-section I saw, but I prefer to watch the latter because I think there is more going on, plus at the end there is a cute baby to play with . We are allowed free run of the nursery and the birthing room. There are as many as three labours going on at once in the room, though usually only one or two. The women are there with the midwives and it’s usually the grandmothers who are there afterwards to meet their daughters. The newborns are kept in the nursery and we often go in to play with them. Some of them are tiny and absolutely adorable. We watched a c-section of a woman whose uterus was ripping so the baby had to come out two months early. He was so small but is doing well now and I believe all complications with the birth are manageable.
This morning I went to the destitute house after breakfast (the home for the mentally challenged. I help them clean up and then we sang some songs together. One of them speaks English very well, but most of them speak Hindi and a few only speak Bengali. I’m not finding the language barrier a problem when I’m interacting with them, but in other areas it is harder. The hand gestures I know are not universal and head nods are very slight. It makes it much harder to communicate.
Not much more to say, I ate two mangos at lunch and will have another one soon :). School starts on Monday and we are going to visit on Tuesday to look around and propose ideas of how we could integrate ourselves in the school system. Until then we are keeping ourselves busy in the hospital and the destitute house.
Hi everyone! It’s the first week in India and so far so much has happened!
We arrived in Kalkutta last Monday night and stayed there till Thursday morning. We stayed at Professor Banerjee’s mother’s house. The first thing we noticed was the poverty. People were just lining the sidewalks to sleep (I arrived at night), and vacant lots were filled with people lying down- the lucky ones had sheets- if not they slept on news papers. There is no good waste disposal system so trash lines the street and is occasionally burned. During the day the city is packed with people. Driving is kinda like playing mario cart. The drivers play a very skilled game of chicken. If one wants to pass someone, they lay down their horn and start driving into oncoming traffic-pulling back just in time so as to not be hit by a bus. Traffic lights are more like suggestions and lanes are optional. Seat belts don’t exists.
People take pictures of me and the other white people on the trip and most of them aren’t too stealthy about it. My first experience with this was on Tuesday- we visited the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta. There was an Indian family there and the father came up to me and said “photo?” I nodded assuming he wanted me to take a picture him and his family, but then I was immediately surrounded by his family with his kids grabbing my hands as he took a picture of me!
On Thursday morning we took a train to Koderma (it was air conditioned!-last time for that…) and when we got off at the station we gave someone some money to help carry our bags to the car. This guy balanced two of our suitcases on his head and grabbed another one in his hands. It was quite impressive- makes you think how people become skilled at something so simple to earn a little money.
Koderma is great. The school where we will be teaching is quite developed and we took a tour of it to see the classrooms and labs, and to meet the principal. It is really beautiful. A few of the nuns teach and they also have some outside teachers come in. It’s not clear exactly what we will be doing yet, the school is on break though so we won’t start until the 21st, but we are all eager to get started.
The hospital is very impressive as well. Most of what they deal with from what I can see is infant care (births…), but there are all sorts of other illnesses and such that they cover. They have an in-patient care (300 rupees a night-about $6) and an out-patient service. We walked around the hospital and went into the room where they do surgery and meet some of the mothers and new borns (so cute!). All their laundry is solar powered (wow) as well as one of their disinfectant machines. We watched three babies being born and the other day and Molly and Namratha watched the second have of a C-section. Namratha later went back and watch another one while the rest of us were resting.
We visited a section of the campus that is set aside for care for the mentally ill. They have 15 women there right now, but can take up to 20. Most of them they said were found on the streets while a few were dropped off by their families. They do some garden work and cleaning, but not too much outside of that. There isn’t a sense of vocational education for them and reestablishment into the outside world, and the ones here will probably stay for the rest of their lives. Yesterday we walked over and sat with them and taught them the itsy-bitsy spider- which was perfect because it was raining!
There hasn’t been much rain here- last year they didn’t get any. We are conscious to conserve water because on most days, even the hospital runs low.
Mangos are abundant here. We have had a fresh mango every day-multiple times a day. They are SO GOOD. There is a mango tree outside our room and a lot at the school. When we went to the school the other day, they served us mango juice with fresh mango. Then when we got back to the hospital (where our home base is) for lunch, the nuns handed us more mangos for desert. So far we have tried 2 types of mangos, mango juice, mango puree, mango jam, mango-coconut curry and spicy mango pickles.
It is pretty hot, but we’re getting used to constantly sweating and slowly adjusting. Our rooms have fans and air coolers- though it all runs on generators so I don’t like to use them too much- mostly at night. The rooms themselves are beautiful- the house we’re staying in has two rooms and two bathrooms for the four of us. There is a staircase up to the roof, and at night you can see all the stars.
It hasn’t been all fun and games, but we’re hopeful for a great experience and a good summer. Another update later!
Two Haverford and two Bryn Mawr students will be working with Holy Family Hospital and St. Clare’s School in Koderma, India for the CPGC internships this summer.